A leading Palestinian-American has called on the United States to negotiate with Hamas the same way they negotiated with Sinn Fein.
Writing in The New York Times op-ed page, Ali Abunimah stated that the approach the U.S. took to Irish nationalist leaders should be undertaken with Hamas.
“Both the Irish and Middle Eastern conflicts figure prominently in American domestic politics — yet both have played out in very different ways.” he wrote.
“The United States allowed the Irish-American lobby to help steer policy toward the weaker side: the Irish government in Dublin and Sinn Fein and other nationalist parties in the north.
“At times, the United States put intense pressure on the British government, leveling the field so that negotiations could result in an agreement with broad support. By contrast, the American government let the Israel lobby shift the balance of United States support toward the stronger of the two parties: Israel.”
He also stated that it was “only by breaking with one-sided demands that (U.S.peace negotiator) George Mitchell was able to help bring peace to Northern Ireland.
“In 1994, for instance, Mr. Mitchell, then a Democratic senator from Maine, urged President Bill Clinton — against strenuous British objections — to grant a United States visa to Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader.
Mr. Mitchell later wrote that he believed the visa would enable Mr. Adams “to persuade the I.R.A. to declare a cease-fire, and permit Sinn Fein to enter into inclusive political negotiations.”
“As mediator, Mr. Mitchell insisted that a cease-fire apply to all parties equally, not just to the I.R.A.”
Such an approach involving Hamas woud be far more successful than what is being tried at the moment, he stated.
He stated that Mitchell’s latest role as Middle East envoy was doomed to failure if he insisted that, unlike the IRA, Hamas had no place at the table.
“No serious analyst believes that peace can be made between Palestinians and Israelis without Hamas on board, any more than could have been the case in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein and the I.R.A.” he stated.
He pointed out that leading Irish negotiators have called for Hamas to be included in talks.
“In a 2009 letter to The Times of London, several British and Irish negotiators, including John Hume, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the Belfast Agreement, criticized the one-sided demands imposed solely on Hamas.
“Engaging Hamas,” the negotiators wrote, “does not amount to condoning terrorism or attacks on civilians. In fact, it is a precondition for security and for brokering a workable agreement.”